Christian aid in Parkland

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: a report from Parkland, Florida.

AUDIO: Our top story tonight: 17 people killed after gunshots ring out inside a Florida high school sending students running for their lives.

REICHARD: Today marks six months since a troubled teen opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

NICK EICHER, HOST: The nation heard stories in the aftermath of missed warning signs in the shooter, leading to more calls for gun control —and a wave of teen-led demonstrations called the March for our Lives. Parkland survivor Cameron Kasky spoke at a rally in Washington.

AUDIO: This doesn’t just happen in schools. Americans are being attacked in churches, nightclubs, movie theaters and on the streets, but we the people can fix this!

REICHARD: Meanwhile, the Parkland community tries to recover—and Christians are leading the way. WORLD Radio’s Brigitte Sylvestre has the story.

BRIGITTE SYLVESTRE, REPORTER: Church United is a ministry that connects congregations across denominational lines in South Florida. Last weekend, the group spearheaded a volunteer effort to beautify the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School before the beginning of the new school year.

SAUDER: This week of school starting is going to be an opportunity for the church to shine.

That’s Pastor Doug Sauder of nearby Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, located just 10 miles east of Parkland. He says working on the campus grounds is only the latest way Christians have shown the love of Christ to the community.

SAUDER: We did a prayer vigil the day after the shooting right across from Stoneman Douglas High School, and a whole bunch of churches came together and said we want to be here for the long haul.

That commitment has continued to bear fruit.

SAUDER: We’ve been over the last six months praying and collecting resources and looking for opportunities…so landscaping here and events we’re going to do for incoming teachers and incoming freshman, partnerships with the Miami Dolphins and Home Depot…it’s actually been a lot of behind the scenes work to make this happen.

On Saturday volunteers gathered inside the school’s cafeteria. Some processed six palettes of sympathy cards that continue to pour into the school from all over the world. Others stood over long tables of snacks, gift cards, hand-written notes, and other requested items and assembled them into care baskets for the teachers. Pausing from her task, Emily explained why she came…

EMILY: Really, it was something that hit home for me. You know, I live in Parkland, so it hit me deep. The fact that this happened in my backyard was not ok.

Outdoors, crews of volunteers braved the hot, humid South Florida air. Teams swept sidewalks, laid brick and painted surfaces.

Steven talked to me while he was planting a tree and pouring mulch. He said he hopes a revitalized campus will make the task of coming back a little easier on the students.

STEVEN: Back in February, when this happened, living very close by, what we saw was a lot of people seeking for God. This is another demonstration, another example of the church and business and the neighborhood and the community coming together for a purpose and that is just to demonstrate love to these students and teachers coming back to something that is not an easy thing to do.

Thankfully for Steven and the others working outdoors, there were plenty of volunteers handing out cold refreshments. Like Holly, who’s home from college and decided to spend one of her final days of summer, helping out…  

HOLLY: Today, I am helping people stay hydrated! I am handing out water bottles, I am picking up trash I am just making sure everyone is good who is working. I am making sure they don’t pass out!

Eddie Copeland is the executive director of Church United. He said all of Saturday’s effort was to accomplish one thing…

EDDIE: As the church, the people of Jesus Christ, we really believe we are the first responders of our community’s pain, its lost-ness and its brokenness… One of the things we found out when we walked the campus with the administration is a multitude of organizations had come in and said we can do the landscaping, we’ll do this, but they just couldn’t rally the volunteers and we said that is what the church can do really well!

He was right. More than 500 volunteers took part in the day to help ready the campus for the new school year that starts Wednesday.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Brigitte Sylvestre reporting from Parkland, Florida.

(Photo: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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